On May 1, the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) issued new state aid notices to school districts with the “adequacy budgets” and “maximum aid payable” for each district in the 2014-15 school year, as required by New Jersey’s weighted student funding formula – the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA).
The notices were issued in response to a motion filed by Education Law Center before the State Supreme Court in the landmark Abbott v. Burke school finance litigation. ELC took legal action when the Christie Administration, on February 27, sent notices to the districts without calculating, under the SFRA formula, the overall budget level adequate to provide a “thorough and efficient” education to all students or the amount of state aid needed to support the adequacy budget.
Based on ELC’s review, the new May 1 notices provide each district with their adequacy budgets and aid amounts based on the SFRA formula law. In making these calculations, the NJDOE did not reduce the additional cost for at-risk (low-income) and bilingual students as occurred last year, an action that prompted firm objections from the Legislature.
By using the correct formula costs, weights, aid amounts and other parameters, the May 1 notices provide the necessary information for lawmakers to decide how much state aid to appropriate for 2014-15 in the State Budget, thus fulfilling the primary objective of ELC’s legal action. The information is also crucial for educators, school boards, parents and students to press the Legislature to increase school aid in the FY15 Budget.
NJDOE also issued a summary of the May 1 notices showing the need for a $1 billion increase in state aid in order to provide the essential resources necessary for New Jersey students to achieve the states’ rigorous academic standards, including the new Common Core language arts and mathematics standards.
“We thank newly appointed Commissioner David Hespe for stepping in to quickly resolve this matter,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “We also look forward to working with Commissioner Hespe to support the effort of public school advocates to secure an increase in K-12 funding and preschool expansion aid in the upcoming budget negotiations between Governor Chris Christie and the Legislature.”
Because the May 1 aid notices properly comply with the SFRA formula, ELC has informed the Supreme Court of its request for the pending motion in the Abbott case to be withdrawn.
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